If you’ve been on planet Earth for the past few months you’ve probably heard the news. No, not about the new royal baby or about Beyonce’s “Homecoming” release on Netflix. I’m talking about the news blast you likely saw on your social media feed on or about April 10th, 2019, “Kim Kardashian is working on becoming a lawyer.” This news blast was unexpected to say the least. In fact, I ruled it out as inaccurate until seeing this news story corroborated by news media outlets more credible than my Instagram news feed.
However, the most incredible part of this news story wasn’t her plan to become a lawyer, I mean, “get it girl,” this pathway is available for whoever is willing to take on the task. What was more shocking, was the fact that she is doing this without going to law school. Yes, you heard me right. Kim Kardashian, wife of Kanye, mother to North, Saint, Chicago and now Psalm West, found a pathway to become an attorney, through which she can avoid the dreaded cold call in front of hundreds of people and extensive class lectures that go on for hours. No this isn’t a pathway reserved for the wealthy or famous. In fact this is a pathway that has existed for centuries, it’s just simply the road less travelled for reasons I will delve into below. Therefore, if you’re interested in becoming a lawyer sans law school, this article is for you.
Now before dumping your LSAT books, you must understand that becoming a lawyer without going to law school is not for the faint of heart. It may mean relocating to a state that allows for this option and completing many requirements before you can sit for the bar.
If you don’t already live in California, Vermont, Virginia or Washington, you may need to relocate to one of these states. These four states provide “law reader” or apprenticeship programs for students who opt to bypass law school. Please note however, that each state has its own specific program guidelines as shown below.
California requires “law readers” to complete four years of study in a law office or Judge’s Chambers under the supervision of an attorney who must have five years of active law practice within the state. Study time must equate to at least 18 hours per week, 5 hours of which the reader must be under the direct supervision of their supervising attorney. California law readers are also required to take monthly exams, complete a Baby Bar Exam after their first year of study and also submit progress reports to the CA State Bar every six months. California also requires an initial fee of $158 as well as a $105 fee which must be submitted along with the progress reports every six months.
Vermont requires that law readers complete four years of study under a supervising attorney who has at least three years of experience or a judge.
Virginia only requires three years of study in a law office. However, law readers must complete at least 40 weeks of study each year, a minimum of 25 hours of study each week, 18 of which must take place in a supervising attorney’s office. The supervising attorney must provide at least three hours of direct supervision and must have at least ten years of experience.
Washington State offers a law clerk program as an alternative law school option. This program is codified under Rule 6 of the Washington Supreme Court’s Admission and Practice Rule. It requires law clerks to be employed for four years in a law office. They must complete 30 hours of work/study each week, 3 hours of which the clerk must be directly supervised by a supervising attorney who has at least 10 years of experience. The clerk must also pay a $1500 annual fee.
After completing the relevant law study requirements above, law readers/apprentices are then required to pass character and fitness requirements for their desired bar exam state, much like their traditional law student counterparts and also sit for the bar exam.
Sounds easy enough right? I kid! Bypassing law school, is definitely a major undertaking to complete. This option doesn’t provide as much structure as a traditional law school would, but depending on your current situation this alternative may be a good option to consider. As you make these considerations, please keep the below pros and cons in mind.
- This option is very entrepreneurial, therefore, you get more control in balancing your study and home life. This option may be good if you’re balancing a job, a family and study. These programs don’t require the rigid schedule that a law school has to offer and although most programs are four years long, this gives you extra time to go at your own pace.
- There are a list of prominent attorneys who have also travailed this route successfully. Do the names: Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson ring a bell?
- Law apprenticeships/law reader programs are very unpopular, therefore, finding a supervising attorney may be difficult. In 2015, only three out of 13,084 bar exam takers in California were law readers. Thus, many law firms or Judge’s chambers may not have programs in place to facilitate this option. Kim Kardashian, actually has a supervising attorney who is mentoring Kim as one of her primary job roles. Unless you have a strong network with an attorney willing to provide such dedication or unless you find a firm that has a structured program in place, it’s unlikely that you may get the same level of attention as Kim K.
- Finding a job may be difficult due to the lack of popularity of this program. Jobs are already extremely difficult to come by for students with a JD from a top law school. Therefore, due to the unpopularity of this option and the lack of knowledge, nationwide, firms may be apprehensive to hire students who take this route.
Good luck as you make your decision!
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